Qatar’s Award-Winning Hamad International Airport Goes Touchless to Safeguard Passengers
How a world-class airport remotely transformed their infrastructure to create a safer, more hygienic traveler experience amidst the pandemic.
Qatar’s Hamad International Airport (HIA) is a shining star in the aviation world. Named the world’s best airport in 2021 - an extraordinary feat considering the circumstances - HIA has been praised for its ability to cater to all kinds of travelers. Its facilities include swimming pools, art galleries, exclusive lounges, a spa and even a squash court.
As the global COVID-19 pandemic escalated, the airport’s priorities shifted. HIA needed new ways to safeguard customers against the virus, keeping both passenger hygiene and airport experience in mind. They made the key decision to implement touchless technology at specific points in the customer journey where transmission of bacteria is more likely: self check-in and baggage drop kiosks.
Rolling out new technology in an airport amidst a global pandemic comes with its fair share of logistical challenges. So how did HIA coordinate a massive infrastructure upgrade - and fast?
HIA needed a tried and tested technology they could rely on, and most importantly, a solution that they knew passengers would like.
HIA selected the award-winning happyhover™ solution, developed by Happymeter. The happyhover™ is an innovative retrofit solution that can easily be installed onto existing self check-in kiosks, eliminating the need for a complete equipment overhaul. The happyhover™ bar, when placed above the interactive kiosk screen, uses Neonode’s Touch Sensor Modules to project a shield of invisible infrared light that detects finger movements in mid- air, allowing customers to select, swipe and type without the need to physically touch the screen.
Having the idea and the technology is one thing - implementation was a whole different ball game. Grounded in Singapore, the Happymeter team had no access to the self check-in kiosks in Qatar. With no staff on the ground and no way of getting to Hamad Airport, the team at HIA needed to install the solution themselves. This required full trust in the solution’s plug-and-play design, and some serious remote collaboration.
The simple retrofit design together with the plug-and-play application made it possible for the IT staff at HIA, with remote support from Happymeter’s team, to transform 62 self check-in kiosks and 12 self-service bag drops into touchless experiences.
People on the ground sent photos of the kiosks from multiple angles in order for Happymeter to get a better feel for the kiosks’ design.
Instead of using a courier service to ship the prototype to the Middle East which would take days, Pierre Hausheer, Founder and CEO of Happymeter, handed it directly to Qatar Airways at his local airport - putting it in the hands of the customer a mere 12 hours later. Happymeter’s team and HIA’s IT team also found a way to test the product remotely using a USB mouse and the same product protocols.
Based on advanced infrared technology from Neonode, the happyhover™ solution detects finger movements in mid-air before they touch the screen. The solution works seamlessly with existing user interfaces for instant plug-and-play and provides the many benefits offered from Neonode’s technology, such as pinpoint accuracy, high scanning frequency, and low latency. Using infrared light which is invisible to the human eye, the solution detects breakages in the light. This allows passengers to make touch interactions with anything they choose, whether it be fingers, gloves, pens or even their own passport.
“Innovation isn’t just about developing new products. It’s also about finding customers willing to try . And amazingly, HIA were willing to. They knew the technology worked, but because they had no support on the ground there was a much higher level of risk and responsibility on their part. They really went above and beyond to prioritize their customer’s safety” says Pierre, Founder and CEO of Happymeter.
In February 2021, the HIA’s own IT team successfully installed the touchless plug-and-play solution in all departure hall kiosks. After monitoring how passengers reacted to the new touchless technology, HIA was pleased to report that they were happily surprised and enjoyed how easy it was to use. Other project outcomes include:
Hamad International Airport becomes first airport in the Middle East to receive a 5-star COVID-19 safety rating - further enhancing their reputation and competitive edge
A demonstrated plug-and-play solution that can be used for countless other applications
No personal information is stored or collected, protecting customers’ privacy
Consumers who wish to do so can still touch the kiosk displays, making adoption seamless
Hamad’s senior vice president for technology and innovation, Suhail Kadri, said: “We are continually looking for solutions that aid the wellbeing of our passengers and employees. Our solution ensures passenger comfort and peace of mind with their intuitive user experience, allowing a range of inputs and gestures. The introduction of these technologies at HIA not only fits well within our strategy of frictionless travel as a leading global digital airport but also reaffirms our commitment to rebuilding passenger trust in traveling through Hamad International Airport.”
Happymeter provides touchless solutions to reconcile hygiene with convenience and help ensure the safe resumption of economic activities. The team consists of engineers and experience designers who are dedicated to providing exceptional customer success. They’ve been working with touchless technology since 2019 (before the pandemic) and are based in Singapore.
Neonode’s Touch Sensor Modules can be easily retrofitted to make any surface touchless, including self-service kiosks and elevators. Read more about our contactless touch solutions or contact us today.